President Donald Trump accused the media of misinterpreting his earlier remarks about Meghan, duchess of Sussex, in an interview with ITV’s Piers Morgan, broadcast Wednesday morning.
In an interview with the Sun tabloid, Trump had referred to comments the American-born duchess had made about him before she became part of the British royal family as “nasty.”
During the 2016 election campaign, the duchess — then Meghan Markle — called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive.” The American actress also said she might move to Canada if Trump was elected president. Two years later, she married Prince Harry.
Suggesting that he had been unaware of Markle’s 2016 remarks ahead of preparations for his upcoming state visit to Britain and his royal reception on Monday, Trump said in an audio recording released by the Sun,” I didn’t know that she was nasty,” in response to a question that cited Markle’s earlier remarks.
But after the interview published, Trump felt misunderstood.
On Sunday, Trump suggested that his remarks had been taken out of context. On Twitter, he wrote: “I never called Meghan Markle ‘nasty.’ Made up by the Fake News Media, and they got caught cold!”
In his ITV interview aired on Wednesday, Trump repeated that he had merely referred to her comments. “I said, ‘Well, I didn’t know she was nasty.’ I wasn’t referring to she’s nasty. I said she was nasty about me,” Trump told ITV anchor Piers Morgan.
“She was nasty to me. And that’s OK for her to be nasty. It’s not good for me to be nasty to her, and I wasn’t,” Trump added, calling the duchess “nice” in the same interview while acknowledging that he did not know her.
In the United States, Trump’s earlier remarks were seen as part of a pattern of often demeaning attacks on female critics, his opponents said. Trump also used the word to describe his Democratic opponent during a 2016 presidential debate, calling Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” — words that later became a rallying cry for the anti-Trump movement.
Trump’s criticism of the duchess was swiftly condemned by a number of British commentators ahead of his state visit, which began Monday and which drew mass protests in London.
“You know, we don’t care what he thinks about us,” British lawyer and political activist Shola Mos-Shogbamimu told Sky News on Saturday. “Women are going to stand up together and speak out against the lunacy of his presidency.”
But in Britain, Trump’s remarks ahead of the trip also echoed concerns expressed in the lead-up to Meghan and Harry’s wedding last year: that her past political activism may make things awkward for the royal family, which is not supposed to voice public political views. She began speaking out against sexism as a child and did not hide her other personal convictions throughout her acting career, including thoughts on U.S. politics. As a member of the British royal family, Meghan has already strayed further into political territory than others have – for instance, by speaking out against racism, which she has faced personally in recent months.
The duchess, who recently gave birth, did not meet with Trump during his state visit. But throughout the visit, observers looked for other signs of possible tensions between the royal family and Trump.
Some felt the queen’s otherwise diplomatic speech at the state banquet included a subtle rebuttal to Trump when she praised the international institutions Trump has sought to weaken. Others focused on Prince Harry and felt he was avoiding Trump during the visit.
But in his ITV interview, Trump rejected that assertion, saying that he met the prince.
“I congratulated him, and I think he’s a terrific guy. The royal family is really nice,” Trump said.